Macedonia seeks Romania's support to obtain an EU negotiation date and learn about Romania's experience in EU and NATO accession.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 16/12/13
Romanian President Traian Basescu (centre) greets Macedonian ambassador to Romania, Pande Lazarevski. [Macedonian Ministry for Foreign Affairs]
Macedonia is attempting to win supporters for its EU and NATO bids from Union member states and is reaching out to Romania for support.
"Relations between the two countries are intensifying and Romania provides support for Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration processes," Pande Lazarevski, Macedonia's ambassador to Romania, told SETimes.
Officials said Romania has strongly supported Macedonia's EU and NATO integration in the past and has expressed willingness to increasingly assist Macedonia conduct the preparatory work in the accession process.
"There is will to conduct political consultations in order to present the Romanian experience and agree on specific forms of co-operation, "the ministry told SETimes in a statement.
The two countries signed an agreement in 2011 for Romania to support Macedonia's EU integration that constitutes the basis for the current efforts to expand the information exchange and co-operation between the countries' institutions, said Antonio Milososki, former Macedonia foreign minister who signed the agreement.
"That means the foreign affairs ministries should meet at least once per year to undertake political consultations on issues that they determine deserve the most attention," Milososki told SETimes.
Milososki said other institutions can join in, particularly if they can engage in joint programmes and twinning projects to improve the use of EU's IPA funds.
"Romania has traditionally had good relations with Macedonia. Romania has the political will to help Macedonia as well as the regional countries on the path to EU membership. The greatest need we have now is support to start negotiations with the EU. Romania's recommendation can be of great help to increase the interest of other countries toward Macedonia," Milososki said.
Romania has primary interest in supporting Macedonia's EU integration, said Christian Ghinea, director of the Romanian Centre for European Policies in Bucharest.
"Romania also has solid expertise in EU integration and Macedonia can benefit from the opinions of [Romanian] experts in its efforts to accept Union legislation and pass the necessary reforms," Ghinea told SETimes.
Ghinea said a prime example of such co-operation is the engagement of Monica Macovei, former Romanian justice minister, who greatly contributed to consolidating Macedonia's anti-corruption institutions.
Co-operation between the two countries has particularly been pronounced between the militaries as Macedonia doubles efforts to ensure it maintains the highest NATO standards.
Macedonian soldiers increasingly attend courses and seminars in Romanian educational institutions, and the two countries agreed for Macedonian soldiers to be trained at Romania's Defence University in Bucharest.
Moreover, Macedonian soldiers have participated in training exercises in Romania as part of the Black Sea rotation forces' programme for regional co-operation in defence.
"The main benefit for Macedonia is to raise and maintain the readiness level of its personnel marked to participate in [international] missions as well as to participate in training necessary for better interoperability with other partner militaries," the Macedonia ministry of defence told SETimes in a statement.
Macedonia and Romania have signed since1999 annual plans for bi-lateral co-operation which include activities for exchange of experiences in defence reforms.
"At present, the Plan for Bilateral Co-operation 2014 is harmonised and we expect it to be signed by year's end," the ministry said.
Correspondent Paul Ciocoiu in Romania contributed to this report.
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